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SarasWhimsy's avatar

How do we know we see the same colors?

Asked by SarasWhimsy (1642points) March 16th, 2010

How do we know that what I call hunter green is the same color you call hunter green?

How do we know we don’t all see different colors and shades that we learn to call them the same names.

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15 Answers

theichibun's avatar

I see lots of greens as brown. My wife makes fun of me for this.

jealoustome's avatar

I asked the same question a couple of weeks ago. Got some great responses. Great minds… :)

SarasWhimsy's avatar

@jealoustome WOW! I guess I’m not such an original thinker lol. Thanks for the info, your answers were great!

jealoustome's avatar

@SarasWhimsy I thought I was original when I asked too, then someone linked me to another older version of the question. :)

I think there is no way of knowing if we see the same colors. One person’s internal prism could be shifted a few degrees different than ours, but he/she will call all of the colors the same names as we do because that is what they learned to call them. There’s really no way of knowing, because it is all internal brain function and really has nothing to do with our eyes.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The previous threads listed in the link about are most illumination.

There are two separate issues on this topic:

1) Do we have similar subjective experiences at the level of the retina and brain?
2) Have we learned to attach the same verbal labels to identical subjective experiences of colour.

I think the anomalies probably relate more to our verbal labels than to the end result of retinal and brain preprocessing.

marinelife's avatar

Our eyes and brains are designed the same way so, in most cases, (lacking abnormalities) I would think we would see the same colors, but it almost does not matter what our subjective experience is, because we label them the same thing.

mattbrowne's avatar

We don’t.

Val123's avatar

@mattbrowne How do you know?
I’ve thought of this before….it’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy!

jackm's avatar

Many people ask this question without really realizing what color (or for that matter, vision) is.

Different colors are different frequencies of electromagnetic waves. These waves enter our eye and excite one of three different kinds of receptors. (simplified) We call these short, medium and long cones (S, M, and L stand for relative wavelength) The percentage of each cone stimulated for a given receptive field is sent back into the brain. The concept of “color” does not arise until much later.

We recreate all we see in our brain, we never see “reality”

But back to the point, when people realize they can not describe colors to eachother, they then wonder if we all see the same colors. The truth is that color is really a much different idea than most people have, and wondering is we all see the same colors is kind of a moot point.

It is just as valid of a question as “Is fear the same feeling in everyone?” or “Is my feeling of hungry the same as your feeling of hungry?”

If you asked a neuroscientist this question (or one of the ones I proposed) they would say yes, because they all represent the same idea. Blue is a firing on mainly S cones which lead back to a certain region of the brain. Fear is a certain region of the amygdala responding to input. Hunger is the hypothalamus telling us our stomach is empty.

We can only talk about these things in such a way, as it is all we know they are.

Seek's avatar

I was reading a study a few days ago, that discussed the effects of different-coloured light on our sleep cycles.

The study revealed that blue light keeps us awake, but red light does not. This enforced the idea that we evolved to be awake during the day (when the blue light from the sky would keep us up and active), and explains why sleeping beside a fire wouldn’t cause insomnia. The study also stated that the vast majority of blind people studied had the same results as the sighted individuals.

So, even if we can’t “see” the colours to process them, our brains do recognise them as being one and the same.

dpworkin's avatar

Oy, this again. The one and only answer is that there is no possible way to know until you can climb into someone else’s head and find out.

DominicX's avatar

lol…I’m not sure if I want to go through all the stuff I said on the other thread, but I’ll attempt to summarize it. I think that it is very possible that we see different shades of colors and that we see similar colors differently. For example, someone will swear a shirt is blue and another person will swear it’s purple and I might say it’s indigo. Those I believe blend for some people.

However, I believe that for the most part, we don’t see drastic differences in color and this can be shown by the fact that almost everyone agrees that yellow is the lightest of the main rainbow colors. Dark and light are not subjective; they have to do with the amount of light let in the eye. Yellow is hardest to see against a white background. Harder than light blue, light green, light red, etc.

And then everyone agrees that green, yellow, and blue are related and that you can see hints of blue and yellow in green. You can describe green in terms of blue and yellow, in other words. So it wouldn’t make any sense for someone to see blue and yellow the same way I do, but then see green as red because you can’t describe red in terms of blue and yellow. Furthermore, everyone agrees that the six colors of the rainbow are all different and that they blend into each other, so there wouldn’t be any repeats. In other words, there are limits to the possible differences we might see. That’s just my theory.

wundayatta's avatar

When I was in tenth grade speech class, we had to do impromptu speeches. We were to reach into a hat and pull out a topic. My topic was, “why is the sky blue?”

Now I knew that it had to do with the angle the sunlight hits our atmosphere and which colors appear depending on that angle, but I didn’t want to go that way. This is how I started:

“Why is the sky blue? Well, if you were color blind, you wouldn’t know it was blue…” and I riffed off that for the required two or three minutes.

As I was leaving class that day, my teacher pulled me aside, and asked, “are you really color bling?” Man, I guess I aced that course!

I can see colors just as well as anyone else. Although I have no idea what Hunter Green is. As far as I’m concerned, there are six colors and that’s all anyone should need!

mattbrowne's avatar

@Val123 – Colors are an illusion created by our brains. Same when your toe hurts. The pain does not happen in the toe. The brain does trick us successfully. We can’t compare the nature of these individual illusions in detail, only basic differences in our capabilities as such, as shown here

What is the number?

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